Ladies and gentlemen,
My sincere thanks to the Government of South Africa for hosting this landmark event.
As a daughter of the African continent, it gives me special pride to address the 5th Global Conference on the Elimination of Child Labour — the first to take place in Africa.
This Conference is a source of tremendous hope for the 160 million children around the world who are trapped in child labour.
Children who work in mines and in fields.
On construction sites or hidden behind the walls of private homes in domestic servitude.
And those denied the right to fully develop, physically and mentally.
Too often they are denied their right to education.
If they attend school at all, their performance suffers due to their extra workload, and they are likely to drop out early.
Their right to health is also put at risk and accidents and diseases can mark them for a lifetime.
Child labour is — quite simply — wrong.
And the only solution to this crisis is a rights-based approach.
One that recognizes and upholds the rights that every child has to health, education and protection.
A right to a future.
The ILO, as a values-driven organization and leader of the worldwide movement against child labour, has a critical role in this work.
The universal ratification of Convention No. 182 on the Worst forms of Child Labour marked a historic first for the United Nations.
Children everywhere now have essential legal protection, regardless of the level of economic development in their countries and communities.
So the tool exists.
Our challenge now is to fully implement it.
This means seizing the opportunity to renew our commitment made in Oslo 25 years ago.
It means actively convening and listening to our civil society partners on the ground, who remain steadfast champions in the fight against child labour in every corner of the world, as the efforts of Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi in India powerfully demonstrate.
And it means gathering more investment and support for all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that affect our progress on child labour — from poverty and hunger, to social protection, decent work and gender equality.
Education is a clear example of this.
A lack of educational access and opportunities fuels child labour.
And around the world, education is in turmoil.
COVID-19, climate change, and political and economic crises are compounding a pre-existing learning crisis that has left the education-related Sustainable Development Goals badly off-track.
We simply cannot allow children — today and tomorrow — to experience catastrophic losses in learning and well-being.
That’s why the Secretary General decided to convene the Transforming Education Summit this September, as part of Our Common Agenda.
The Summit will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to come together to chart a new path for education — including closing the digital divide, so every child, everywhere, can have a chance at accessing a quality education.
And the Summit also represents a new path to eliminate child labour.
It will urge dramatically expanded financing flows for education and all efforts under Sustainable Development Goal target 8.7, the elimination of all forms of child labour by 2025.
Ladies and gentlemen, our commitment to ending child labour remains strong.
It must never waver.
160 million children are counting on us.
We must not let them down.
With your steadfast support, we can ensure that future generations of children can enjoy what every child deserves.
The simple blessing of a normal, healthy and safe childhood.
Let’s make child labour a thing of the past.